This whole year has been a surreal, exhausting ordeal as a whole, but this particular week in the homestretch of 2020 may take the cake for being one of the most overwhelming so far. From drawn-out midterm exams to the dropping temperatures to, y’know, the election, I know I’m weary. What better way to ease the election result anxiety and the other extenuating stressors in our lives than to turn to our tried-and-true comfort foods? I run through a few of my favorites here with some suggested recipes to look up. However, some of the best foods come from the heart, so be liberal with the directions and ingredient lists, if you so desire, or order out if you have a favorite place.
Mac and cheese
Mac and cheese and comfort food are synonymous in my mind. It has all the components of an ideal classic: gooey cheese, a bubbly, toasty baked top, versatile and easy to make and it warms you up. With the basic ingredients of pasta, butter, milk, flour and cheese, this can be a simple dish to whip up in minutes. Then again, it’s so worth the wait to finish your mac and cheese in the oven with some more cheese and panko breadcrumbs for that contrast of textures. Any sort of melty cheese you have on hand will do, but an easy way to elevate your creation is to personalize a combination of cheeses to your liking. I enjoy sharp white cheddar, gouda, fontina and other decadent and salty cheeses, but don’t be afraid to experiment. This recipe from Feast and Farm is easy enough to perfect.
Wonton noodle soup
I’ve really come to appreciate soups in the past year, what with a different soup in each dining hall every day. From creamy chowders to hearty stews and flavorful broths, every soup has a place. However, I have to go back to my roots and recall this classic childhood favorite that still reigns supreme. Many eateries may serve just wonton soup, which is certainly adequate for a side to a meal. However, I prefer it with the distinct thin yellow noodles. The Woks of Life has a great recipe that can be adapted to your tastes, but I like mine best with some leafy bok choy, punchy chili oil, fresh scallions and hearty wontons (and preferably shrimp).
One of the easiest desserts to make for a crowd, it’s no wonder brownies are a staple on many people’s list of favorite sweets. Gooey, rich, chocolatey desserts never fail to satisfy me, and as much as I love chocolate lava cake, sometimes you need something with less frills. I always enjoy being the one to make the batch because I get to lick the spoon (and bowl). People harp on the boxed mix all the time, but I personally believe there’s nothing wrong with turning to Duncan Hines if you’re short on time or want less clean-up. If you’re willing to do a bit more, however, Handle the Heat has a solid recipe to get the ideal thick brownie with crackly top.
Any form of potato is comforting to me, however, I love spooning some creamy, warm mashed potatoes into a big ol’ bowl and curling up with the latest episode of “The Great British Bake-Off.” Redskin mashed potatoes are a close second, but I think I need to go with the classic buttery, garlicky mashed potatoes that Gimme Some Oven whips up. I do a cheesy variation as well, but sometimes, you’ve got to let the potato shine through.
Honorable mentions: mozzarella sticks, hot chocolate, cinnamon buns, buffalo chicken dip, chili, matzo ball soup, beef stew, arroz caldo, corned beef, champorado, grilled cheese with tomato soup, cornbread, quesadillas.